The Other I

August 1, 2010

My strangled objection

Filed under: Political thoughts — theotheri @ 3:42 pm

I started to read the cover article in the Economist last week that discusses the extraordinary number of people the United States sends to prison.  No other developed country locks up so many of its citizens.  I don’t usually walk away from things like this, but I had to stop.  I couldn’t stand it.

There is something in the American psyche that thinks we can kick people into submission.  We have little insight and no mercy.

The only topic that makes me feel the same way is our attitude toward torture.   I think it comes from the same problem, the same inability to understand that punishment and torture does not achieve what we want it to.

From what I have read, though, the majority of Americans would agree that prison works.  And that torture is permissible under some circumstances when the torturer deems the security of America may be at risk.

So we inadvertently torture innocent people sometimes.

Is that okay?

I don’t think it is.  But quite possibly it’s because I think torture in the end is self-defeating.  It’s one reason why America’s standing in the world has nose-dived since Guantanamo and AbuGhaib.


  1. Prison works in two opposing ways. One: any small-time criminal will receive training to become truly dangerous. Two (and the important part for the rest of the population): it keeps the ones you worry about from breaking your window to come in and murder you in your sleep. Every time a violent crime is committed by a repeat offender there is an outcry “Why was this one let loose?” and most of the time they are right. There is much room for improvement such as better communication between police departments or divulging juvenile records for certain major crimes. In this age of electronic contact there is no excuse.


    Comment by budavar — August 1, 2010 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

    • Which problem do you think generates more crime? putting small-time criminals in prison where they receive “training” to become truly dangerous, or releasing violent criminals while they are still violent?

      Actually, they don’t impress me as two “opposing” processes so much as complimentary ones. I personally think we are intrinsically quite a violent society, and what goes on inside prisons, rather than offering an alternative to violence, simply hones the skills for both the neophyte and the accomplished criminal.

      Unfortunately, I haven’t any idea of how to make things better.

      And I am willing to agree that there are a lot of places where it is much worse.


      Comment by theotheri — August 2, 2010 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

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